The Princess Dinner: A Guest Post by Megan

Megan, age 13
Megan, age 13

Introducing … Megan, my beautiful thirteen year old daughter. It is seriously hard for me to grapple with the fact that this super sweetheart is turning fourteen years old in just two weeks. I met Meg when she was a shy eight year old girl. A year later, I married her dad and had the blessing of adding this amazing young lady into my family, but she has had a place in my heart long before she ever became my daughter.

Megan is an organized wonder. She is adept at cleaning out closets and rearranging furniture. A bundle of energy, I quickly learned that if I didn’t keep Megan busy doing the things I wanted her to do, she would keep me busy doing the things she wanted to do. This girl wakes up every morning ready to tackle the world … and she does, but thankfully in a pleasant sort of way. She kind and thoughtful and just as pretty on the inside as she is on the outside.

Today, I’m pleased to share Megan’s essay on a recent trip to Disney world with her mother. She is the last of my five children to guest post for me during the month of April. But I think you’ll find her story was well worth the wait.

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The Princess Dinner

When I was a little girl, my favorite Disney princess was Cinderella. I thought she was the prettiest of them all, with her blonde hair and sparkly white dress and dainty glass slippers. Oh, how I wished for a fairy godmother of my own so that I could be turned into a princess, too!

Last summer, my mother took me on a week-long vacation to the “Happiest Place on Earth” … Disney World. But I didn’t have a completely happy experience while I was there. Thankfully, it all turned out okay in the end, but for a while I was pretty miserable.

From the moment I first heard we were going to Disney World, I started looking forward to the Princess Dinner at Cinderella’s Castle. My mom had already said that we would stop on our way to buy new dresses and matching jewelry to wear to this fancy feast. I chose a floor length sundress with a pair of beaded sandals to match. As I rode on the long car ride to Florida, I passed the time by planning just how to fix my hair, how to do my makeup, and which colors to paint on my fingernails and toenails.

cinderellacastle
Dinner at the Castle … I could hardly wait!

 

The Princess Dinner was going to be on our last night in the park. I just knew it was going to be an amazing end to my fabulous Disney vacation. On that last day, we woke up extra early. There was still so much to see and do before we went home, and we had to fit it all in before our Princess Dinner at the Castle.

We started the day in the Animal Kingdom. My little sister Sadie want to go to a petting zoo, where we fed more animals than I could count. We also went on a water raft ride, and got completely soaked. My mom suggested we eat an early lunch, knowing that we would have a very large dinner later in the evening.

Shortly after lunch, it started raining so hard that all the rides in Magic Kingdom were shut down for safety reasons. All afternoon it rained off and on, stopping long enough so that we could take one ride before the rain would start again. We spent half the afternoon standing around in the rain, trying to find someplace where we could stay partly dry. Finally the rain passed over, but it still felt very humid and wet.

This was our last day, so everyone in my family agreed that it was worth it to slosh through deep puddles of water, getting our shoes and socks completely water-logged. We really wanted to ride the roller coasters and to see every little thing that we could before it was time to leave. All day, as I walked around in wet clothes and squishy shoes, I reminded myself that soon we would head back to our condo to get all dressed up for the fancy Princess Dinner.

I guess because of the rain and also our desire to try to do it all, no one paid much attention to the time. Suddenly it was 6 o’clock, and we had to be at the castle by 6:30pm for our dinner reservations! In order to change clothes like we were planning, it would mean having to catch the monorail, ride over to our condo, unload and get five people dressed in nice clothes and then catch the monorail back to Cinderella’s Castle in just half an hour’s time.

My mom looked at my stepdad and said, “There is no way we can do all of that in 30 minutes! We’ll just have to go like we are.

I couldn’t believe my ears! Not change for the fancy Princess Dinner? Was my mother serious? Surely not!

Unfortunately, she was. Somehow I managed to hold my tongue. I didn’t say anything to my mother about how I felt, but on the inside I was fuming mad.

To make matters worse, my stepfather decided to buy my little sister Sadie a brand new $80 princess dress to wear, so she got to change clothes and look all pretty, while the rest of us looked like a bunch of drowned rats.

SadieDisney
Sadie looking beautiful in her Sleeping Beauty dress bought for her just before the fancy Princess Dinner

 

 

As I walked into the castle, with my shoes squishing with every step I took, I felt as dejected as I looked. There I was sweaty and stinky with wet, tangled hair. “I am anything but a princess,” I murmured, but I don’t think anyone heard me complain.

Everywhere I turned, there were beautiful women, wearing dresses with lots of jewelry and makeup. Each time I saw another lady dressed up so fine, I remembered how I looked and hung my head in shame. I couldn’t believe my mother hadn’t let us go change clothes! This was not turning out to be the grand finale’ I had hoped it would be.

While we were standing in line for our dinner, my mother wanted us to take a picture with Cinderella. That was the last thing I wanted to do! There I was, looking like a piece of trash, next to the beautiful Cinderella. I faked a smile and as soon as the picture was taken I rushed back to my spot in line.

MegMaddieCinderella
Meg on Cinderella’s left, and Maddie on the right

 

Finally, after a tremendously long wait, we were led to our table. As we approached out place, I could hardly believe it. We had gotten a table right next to the big glass windows, the most perfect spot for viewing the fireworks. For a few minutes I forgot all about my ragged appearance, but then something else happened to make me remember. While we ate, each of the princesses came over to our table to take photos and sign our autograph books. Of course, my mom wanted me to get in every picture. I tried to look happy, but as I posed next to each beautiful princess all I really wanted to do was slouch a little lower in my chair.

I wish I could say that my attitude changed that night, but it really didn’t. However, eventually I did stop focusing my thoughts on my appearance and began to enjoy the actual experience of eating a nice meal with my family and watching fireworks from Cinderella’s Castle. Later, however, as I began to look back over my experiences and memories from my week at Disney World, I started to think differently about that princess dinner.

When I was a little girl, I thought being a princess was all about having the right look. All the Disney princesses wore gorgeous dresses and had lots of jewels. Their hair was perfect. Of course, their Prince Charming was as dashing as they were beautiful. To my childish way of thinking, beauty was all about the outward appearance.

Yet, this was very different than what I learned from my parents. They taught me what the Bible says about beauty, which is that beauty comes from the inside and is not at all based on the outside appearance of a person. In 1 Peter 3: 3-4, it is written: “Your beauty should not consist of outward things like elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold ornaments or fine clothes. Instead, it should consist of what is inside the heart with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very valuable in God’s eyes.”

I thought about this for a long while. I don’t think this means that beautiful clothes or wearing jewelry is wrong. However, it is important for me to remember that these are not the things that will make me beautiful girl. Instead, having qualities such as a gentle spirit, loving attitude, compassionate heart, an inner joy and a peaceful disposition will bring out my true beauty.

The best thing is that them more I pondered those fancy Disney princesses, the more I realized that each one displays at least one quality of inner beauty, too. For example, Cinderella is so kind and loving. She beams with an inner joy, despite her circumstances. Snow White has a gentle spirit and a compassionate heart. And Sleeping Beauty has such a peaceful personality. Even without their fancy dresses and elaborate jewels, they are beautiful … beautiful on the inside.

I may not be a fancy princess who lives in a castle, wears puffy dresses and has a handsome Prince Charming. But I can have the heart of a princess just by choosing to be the kind of person who strives to have those special qualities that sets a girl apart. And I’m grateful that real beauty always comes from the inside out.

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BaptistGirlConfession

This post is part of the 2015 A-to-Z Blogging Challenge. If you are visiting due to that, thanks so much for popping in to read today’s post. I hope you will leave me a comment so that I can return the visit to your blog. I love to connect with other bloggers and readers. If you are a regular reader, I hope you’ll stick with me during April when I blog about the stories of my faith.

Operation: Not Just a Game Anymore

operation

Operation.

Whenever someone says that word, I tend to think of the board game. Maybe you had one when you were a kid. Perhaps you currently have one hanging out in your game closet.

My brother and sister and I used to play Operation when we were kids. Of course, it didn’t take long for us to lose half of the pieces. When the batteries wore out, I think my parents claimed we didn’t have the correct-sized batteries to replace them … which meant that the operating doctor was on the honor system for admitting when he or she had messed up.

I was never very good at this operating game. I tried so hard to pull out the tiny bones, but my hands were always too shaky.

For a brief time in my younger life, I thought perhaps I might like to be a doctor or a nurse. After all, I liked biology class. Then I realized I was not a blood person. I don’t even do well with tiny scraps. I have fainted at the sight of my own blood several times.

Between Operation (the board game) and the problem with blood, I soon figured out that I was not cut out to be employed in the medical field.

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I’ve had two operations in my life. Three, if you count my wisdom teeth being removed under sedation, but since that was at the dentist’s office and not in a hospital I don’t normally include it among my actual surgeries.

The first operation was a tonsillectomy when I was not quite four years old. I have a lot of strange, strange memories about that event. For example, I remember the nurse telling me she would look like a frog when she came to get me for my surgery. All night long I wondered how she was going to turn into a frog. I was surprised to see the next morning that she still looked rather human to me. I suppose she thought the green mask covering her face made her appear frog-like. I actually can remember waking up in the recovery room, as well as feeling a little miffed that I didn’t get to count all the way to ten before I fell asleep for the operation.

My second surgery was just two years ago. I had my gall bladder removed. Oddly enough, I don’t recall much about that operation. The one thing I do remember is that just prior to putting me completely under sedation, the anesthesiologist asked me if I liked the music selection. Already feeling a little inhibited from the happy cocktail I had taken half an hour earlier, I told him that I didn’t really like his music choices at all. The man laughed and said, “Well, I don’t guess that matters much at all.”  That’s really the last thing I can actually remember before waking up at home in my bed two days later.

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Two of my five children (Nathan and Megan) have had their tonsils and adenoids removed. Nathan has had five sets of ear tubes, and a tympanoplasty (ear drum patch), as well.

None of them has ever had a surgery that has required an overnight stay in the hospital. Even my own gall bladder surgery was out-patient.

All of that is about to change.

On May 4th, my son Joel will be having major surgery to correct a chest deformity, pectus excavatum. While many people have this deformity and choose to have it surgically corrected, most of the time it is purely for cosmetic reasons. For Joel, this is not the case. His sternum sinks so deeply into his chest cavity that it is now compressing on his heart and pushing it to one side. He simply doesn’t have room in his chest for normal heart and lung function.

A surgery is definitely necessary. But it won’t be the out-patient variety. Joel will be going through something very similar to open-heart surgery, except the operation isn’t on the heart. His chest cavity will be opened. He sternum cut way from the ribs and repositioned with wires. He will need to be hospitalized for 3-5 days before coming home, and then it will be 4-6 months before his has a full recovery.

This is a really big and scary sort of operation.

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Sometimes God surprises us, even in the middle of difficult and trying circumstances. That has definitely been the case regarding Joel’s surgery.

Four years ago, Jon was dying from a heart infection. Dr. Tedesco was the many doctors God used to save Jon’s life. He surgically removed the infected mitral valve and gave him a brand-new teflon mechanical valve. I’ve been forever grateful to God for sending Dr. Tedesco to be a part of Jon’s medical team.

Imagine my delight when I discovered Joel’s surgeon would also be Dr. Tedesco. It was almost as if I could feel God put His arms around me and say, “No need to worry over this one, Paige. I’ve got it too.

Of course, that doesn’t mean I’m not worrying. I am. I’m the mom. I still see my 6′ (and still growing) boy as my baby. But, even I have to admit that there is peace in the middle of the unknown.

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Lord my God, I cried to you for help, and you have healed me. ~Psalm 30:2

Jon & I humbly ask if you would remember Joel in your prayers.

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BaptistGirlConfessionThis post is part of the 2015 A-to-Z Blogging Challenge. If you are visiting due to that, thanks so much for popping in to read today’s post. I hope you will leave me a comment so that I can return the visit to your blog. I love to connect with other bloggers and readers. If you are a regular reader, I hope you’ll stick with me during April when I blog about the stories of my faith.

No Naps: Not Now, Not Ever … Never!

“No, Daddy! Noooooo! Please no! Don’t take a nap! PLEEEEASE! Don’t take a nap!”

Nine-year old Megan lay spread eagle across the bed, trying to prevent her father from laying down as she pleaded with him in a loud voice. “I hate it when you take naps! Don’t take a nap, Daddy! Please don’t take a nap!”

Jon gently shoved her to the side and lay down anyway. “It’s just for a little while, Megan. I’m not going anywhere. I’m just going to lay right here.”

And as Jon closed his eyes, Megan crossed her arms and stomped off to her room.

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During the time Jon and I were dating, I heard many stories like this, both from Jon and from Megan. It seemed to be a repetitive scenario that played out again and again in their home.

Jon told me how Megan hated naps, practically from the time she was a young baby. He said he would lay down next to her when she was a tiny toddler, using his arm to gently pin her down, making her take a nap with him. “No wonder she hates naps, Jon,” I would say in a mildly amused manner.

Often, Jon mentioned how even as a child he was known for napping. Once he fell sound asleep in the backseat of his mother’s car on the ride home from school … a ride that was approximately 3 city blocks total and took less than five minutes to drive.  Another time, he shared how on family trips he would climb up into the back dash of his father’s big car and sleep to pass the time. This was, of course, long before seatbelt laws were in effect.

I heard all these stories while dating Jon, but I figured they were exaggerations. That is until I started experiencing Jon’s napping for myself.

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Jon and I had been dating nearly a year when my birthday rolled around. He invited me to come spend the day with him and the plan was to go antique shopping. I arrived at his home around 9:30 am and we quickly headed out for what I assumed would be a day of leisurely browsing in several stores. By the time we were eating lunch, Jon said, “Do you mind if we go back home so that I can lay down for a while? I’m feeling tired. I think a short nap might help.

Reluctantly, I agreed. After all, I knew Jon was ill (though at the time I had no idea it was a serious heart infection). But still, it was aggravating as his short nap turned into a two hour nap fest. I really understood how Megan felt!

Still, somehow I was convinced that once Jon had recovered from his illness, the napping would stop.

I was wrong … four years later, Jon still loves napping.

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Jon and I often joke that if there was an Olympic event for napping, he would have the gold medal all wrapped up. The man can nap anywhere, anytime, in just about any situation.

He naps in cars (thankfully not when he is driving), on planes, and I’m sure if he were given the chance he would nap on a train as well. He is able to sleep sitting up, reclined or lying in a more typical prone position. He has no problems sleeping while fully dressed, even with his shoes on his feet. Jon likes morning naps, afternoon naps, and even catnaps after dinner. He has napped on floors, in parked cars, and doctor’s offices.

Truly,for Jon, napping is not a problem.

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Megan hates naps of all kinds, but mostly she hates her father’s naps.

Personally I don’t mind the occasional Sunday afternoon nap, but I’m definitely not as fond of napping as my husband. In fact, I detest many of his favorite naps, such as the after-dinner-in-the-recliner nap or the interminably long Saturday afternoon nap (especially when my to-do list is a long as my arm). I’m sad to admit that more often than not, I only begrudgingly allow my husband to take a nap, while I wait for him to wake up, my arms crossed and my bottom lip poked out in a petulant pout.

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As I was writing this blog post, I remembered that God rested. He created the world and then He took a rest. God, who does not sleep or slumber, does everything with a purpose, so the fact that He rested is  huge.

Rest is good for the human soul. We need time to relax from our work efforts, in order to give our minds and bodies a chance to rejuvenate. Looking at it from this perspective, even Megan and I must admit that taking a nap here or there really isn’t such a bad idea after all.

But please, we beg you … don’t tell Jon.

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By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. ~Genesis 2:2

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”  ~Matthew 11:28

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BaptistGirlConfession

This post is part of the 2015 A-to-Z Blogging Challenge. If you are visiting due to that, thanks so much for popping in to read today’s post. I hope you will leave me a comment so that I can return the visit to your blog. I love to connect with other bloggers and readers. If you are a regular reader, I hope you’ll stick with me during April when I blog about the stories of my faith.

 

Maya and Misty: A Tale of Two Friends

The summer of her 9th birthday, my daughter Julia met Maya.

It was, according to Julia, “friendship at first sight.”

The birthday party where Julia met her best friend Maya.
The birthday party where Julia met her best friend Maya. Julia is in the brown dress on the far right (hand at her chin). Maya is the young lady in the middle of the back row, wearing a floppy hat (without the black bow). 

Julia and Maya were introduced to each other at the birthday party of a mutual friend. It was a dress-up tea party, and the birthday girl’s mom had asked me to stay and help her with party games. I was pleased to help, and enjoyed gazing about the room filled with giddy girls, each one dressed in her fanciest clothes, some wearing high heels, big baubles, long gloves, or floppy hats.

Throughout the party, I noticed Julia and Maya, talking and laughing together just as if they had been friends forever. “That’s odd,” I thought. But I shrugged it off as Julia has always been a rather extroverted child who never meets a stranger.

Once, during the middle of the party, Julia came over and whispered in my ear, “Momma, you won’t believe it! I have just met my best friend in the whole world!”  Looking over at the cute girl with the adorable curls and infectious laugh, I thought it was sweet that Julia felt such an instant kinship to Maya, but then I also figured my daughter was likely being her normally over-dramatic self.

However, when it was time for us to leave the party, Julia hugged Maya goodbye while Maya said woefully, “Oh, Julia! I really hope we can see each other again soon!”

“Maybe it’s not just Julia …,” I thought.

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Maya with her mother, Misty
Maya with her mother, Misty

For the next several months, Julia talked non-stop about her new friend. Almost daily, she asked me when Maya could come over to play. “She’s my best friend in the world, Momma!” Julia would say in her most pleading voice. “How can you continue to keep us apart?”

The problem was that I didn’t know Maya’s mother at all. I felt uncomfortable picking up the phone and calling up a complete stranger to ask if our daughters, who were supposedly best friends, could get together and play.

Questions raced through my mind. “What if Maya has forgotten all about Julia? Maybe her mother will be freaked out by a stranger calling to see if her child can come over to play?” Not wanting to put myself into an awkward situation, I typically just brushed Julia off, hoping that eventually she would forget all about Maya and find another best friend.

But Julia didn’t forget Maya. In fact, whenever the subject of friends came up, Julia would say, “My best friend is Maya, but I never get to see her.”

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Six months later, my daughter Megan wanted to have a sewing party. The plan was to make pillowcase dresses to send to an organization called Little Dresses for Africa.

Since it was Megan’s party, most of the girls invited to come were her friends. However, Julia asked (rather insistently) if she could invite a friend as well … and, as I’m quite sure you’ve already guessed, Julia wanted to invited her best friend in the entire world, Maya.

Finally, I could relent! Calling up a mother with a party invitation for a child is so much easier than calling up for no reason.To my great relief, Maya’s mom, Misty, was not only friendly and easy to chat with, but also pleased to accept the invitation for her daughter.

“That was easy,” I thought, as I hung up the phone. “I really should have called Misty sooner.” But at least now I could rest easier knowing that I had finally worked it out for Julia to see her “best friend” again. I just hoped with all of my heart that Maya still felt the same way about Julia. I hated to think that Julia’s heart might be broken.

Thankfully, on party day, Julia and Maya seemed to pick up right where they left off six months earlier. Even I had to admit these two girls had something special.

The sewing party attendees ... Julia and Maya are together in the center.
The sewing party attendees … Julia and Maya are together in the center.

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Since the sewing party, hardly a week has gone by without Julia and Maya seeing each other. They are in the same 4-H club, on the same swim team, and beg for sleepovers constantly. In fact, earlier this month, Julia and Maya went to Teen Pact. The only way either one of them would consent to go was if the other one was going too. These two girls are a matched set, like salt and pepper, ham and cheese, peanut butter and jelly. Wherever you see Julia, you are going to see Maya too.

Julia and Maya, all dressed up for Teen Pact.
Julia and Maya, all dressed up for Teen Pact.

Julia’s friendship with Maya is definitely something rare and special. Sort of like love at first sight, their friendship was instantaneous … like two souls able to instantly see something in each other that bound them together. There is no doubt in my mind that these two girls will always share a relationship throughout their lives, no matter where their journeys might take them. (I do, however, doubt they will grow up and share an apartment and have 30 cats, as they both currently insist. At least, I hope that’s not what their future holds.)

But what surprises me even more than seeing how Julia and Maya met and became instant friends, was discovering God had a friendship for me in this as well.

When I moved to Cajun Country four years ago, I left behind friends and came to a place where I knew just a handful of people. For a long time, life in Lafayette was lonely. I was grateful for my husband, who really is my best friend, but sometimes I just wanted another woman to talk with and relate to … a friend in this new town I was learning to call home.

To my unexpected delight, Misty has turned out to be one of several answers to that prayer. She’s the sort of friend who can walk right into my home unannounced, wipe up my dirty countertops, and make a pot of coffee without ever thinking twice about asking. Misty has more than once talked to my daughter just as if she was her own child, calling her out on rotten attitudes or bad thinking. She’s the kind of friend who I can call if I have a problem or need some prayers.

I never dreamed when Julia met Maya, that God had planned all along to give me a good friend too.

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A good friend is a blessing from God.

The soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. ~ 1 Samuel 18:1

Late and Lost: Lousy Words for Today

My husband Jon woke up late this morning. He needed to leave the house by 6 am to get to work on time, but for some reason it was 5:50 am before either of us woke up. Waking up late is never a good way to start the day.

Maddie works on Tuesdays and Thursdays at a local church’s Mother’s Day Out program. She doesn’t have to leave for work until 7:30 am, but in order for her to get ready in time she has to be woken at 6 am. I felt thankful that I wasn’t late for waking up Maddie … but I might as well have been.

You see, Maddie quickly realized that she lost her work shirt. She searched high and low. Jon, who I mentioned earlier was already running late, stepped in to help Maddie search for the missing garment. It was all to no avail. The work shirt was very much lost. Losing something as important as a work shirt is also not a good way to start the day.

As I poured myself a cup of coffee, I realized it was raining outside … again. It’s been raining since last Friday. Another day of no sunshine. Another day of being stuck inside the house.

“What a lousy day this is turning out to be!” I thought. 

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Some days are just lousy, even if you aren’t running late or losing important items.  We’ve all been there. Everyone has experienced a day (or two …  or three) when from the start it all goes wrong.

In the past, whenever I have fretted about one thing or another not going quite right, my mother would remind me, “Paige, one thing you can count on is that in this world you will have trouble. But think of it this way …  it is the problems and troubles we face that cause us to long for the perfection of heaven.”

She’s right. Today there might be trouble (thankfully just in the form of running late and losing important items and more rain that I’d like), but there is coming a day when I will leave behind this world full of lousy days. Then I will live forever in the presence of holy perfection, which is found only in Jesus Christ, King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”  ~John 16:33

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BaptistGirlConfession

This post is part of the 2015 A-to-Z Blogging Challenge. If you are visiting due to that, thanks so much for popping in to read today’s post. I hope you will leave me a comment so that I can return the visit to your blog. I love to connect with other bloggers and readers. If you are a regular reader, I hope you’ll stick with me during April when I blog about the stories of my faith.

 

Kindergarten: Like A Dream Come True

Momma, you might not believe me, but this is true and for real and I am not making it up. Tomorrow is Kindergarten party jumper day at school, and …” my daughter paused, before finishing with a dramatic gasp, “I am the line leader!

Five year old Julia jumped up and down, as she excitedly clapped her hands. She let out a tiny squeal, twirled around and said, her eyes glittering with anticipation, “This is kind of like a dream come true!

All year long, Julia had lived for the days when she was the class line leader. As I imagined just how much Julia would enjoy leading the entire kindergarten class out to the playground for their end-of-the-year party, I could understand her joy and excitement over the unexpected treat of being line leader on such an important day.

Laughing at her giddiness, I reached over to give Julia a quick hug, and said, “Wow! What a great day you’ll have! But you know, more than a dream come true, this sounds to me like it’s a special gift to you from God … just to remind you that He thinks you’re pretty special and He loves you.”

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Sometimes, when I am reflecting upon the goodness of God, I think about just how often He has answers my prayers.  God is often merciful to give to me those things for which I’ve directly asked Him, and I am always amazed when I get to share the stories of His faithfulness to me.

Yet, I sometimes think God shows His love for me in a greater way by simply giving me something I didn’t even know I wanted or dared to ask … like getting to be the line leader on party jumper day, or finding money in the pocket of a coat you haven’t worn in a while, or checking into a hotel at the end of a long, hard day to discover your reservation had been upgraded to a better room without any extra costs.

I’m so glad I am loved by a Heavenly Father, who not only desires to give me the desires of my heart, but also loves to show His deep love for me by surprising me in the most unexpected ways.

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Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. ~Psalm 37:4

Every good and perfect gift is from above. ~James 1:17

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BaptistGirlConfession

This post is part of the 2015 A-to-Z Blogging Challenge. If you are visiting due to that, thanks so much for popping in to read today’s post. I hope you will leave me a comment so that I can return the visit to your blog. I love to connect with other bloggers and readers. If you are a regular reader, I hope you’ll stick with me during April when I blog about the stories of my faith.

“J” Names

Every so often, I think about how odd it is that so very many people I love have names starting with the letter J.

There is my husband Jon, and two of my children (Joel and Julia). My paternal grandmother’s name was Juanita, and one of my especially dear friends is Josephine.  My dad and his father both had the first name James, though neither of them used it, preferring to be called by their middle names instead. My sister-in-law is Julie and her husband’s name is Jeff. My cousin has a son named Jude, and another cousin has a boy named Jack.

There are more …

Mrs. Jeane taught me 4th grade, but she was always more like an aunt to me. I  have two friends named Jill, and a college pal named Justine. Every week at church kind Mr. Johnny sits in front of me, and sometimes Jose’ sits behind me. I have several acquaintances with the names Jennifer, Jessica or some variation thereof. I know a few Joshuas, a couple of Jeremys and there are at least three people I know with the name JJ.

And should I run out of people with names start with the letter J, there is always my husband’s dog, Jackson.

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It really does seem like a lot of people have J names.

One year I had a classroom full of 3rd graders, in which 15 of my 23 students had names beginning with the letter J.

Jordan, Jordon, and Jordyn, as well as Jacob and Jakob. Jeremy and Jerome. Jocelyn, Jacqueline, and Jasmine. Joshua. Jarod. Jacee. Jamie. Jade.

Whew!

Of the remaining eight students, five had names beginning with the letter K or a C which made the hard “kuh” sound. (Oh yes … the insanity is true. I couldn’t make this stuff up. Poor Damien. He probably got called on to answer questions far more than he should have.)

Naturally, that was the school year I thought I might go crazy. Never in my life have I stuttered quite so much. I vowed then and there to never name a single one of my children any name starting with the letter J, but you see how well that worked out for me.

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When I was a child, my church often sang an old hymn that goes like this:

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. Sweetest name I know.

Jesus. It really is the sweetest, most wonderful name. It’s also the most important name I know, for it is the name above all other names.

at the name of Jesus
every knee will bow—
of those who are in heaven and on earth
and under the earth—
and every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord

~Philippians 2:10-11

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BaptistGirlConfession

This post is part of the 2015 A-to-Z Blogging Challenge. If you are visiting due to that, thanks so much for popping in to read today’s post. I hope you will leave me a comment so that I can return the visit to your blog. I love to connect with other bloggers and readers. If you are a regular reader, I hope you’ll stick with me during April when I blog about the stories of my faith.

 

 

In Memoriam of Poppa: A Guest Post by Joel

Joel, age 15
Joel, age 15

This is Joel. He’s my oldest biological child, and the oldest son in our home. A few days ago, I shared this open letter to Joel, writing about how proud I am of him and what a joy it has been to be his mom. It probably describes him better than anything else I could say.

Joel is my high achiever with the big life dreams. He is my hard and diligent worker, who gives everything he does 110%. He is either utterly serious or the biggest clown you’ll ever meet. Tall, lanky, and tenderly sweet … he’s the boy that made me a mom, and I treasure the gift that he is to me.

Today I am proud to share Joel’s essay about his memories of his grandfather. He is my fourth of my five children to guest post for me during the month of April. Next week, I’ll share Megan’s story. But until then, please enjoy …

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In Memoriam of Poppa

Wednesday, September 17, 2014. 7:30 am. My mother’s 42nd birthday. Typically my siblings and I would have woken her up, but today I was the one being shaken awake. Bleary-eyed and fuzzy-headed, I tried to comprehend her words. “Joel, your grandfather has passed away.”

Poppa? Dead? How could that even be possible? Just last night I had talked to him on the phone. Lying back down, I pulled the covers over my head. Maybe it was just a nightmare.

Unfortunately, this wasn’t a bad dream. My family spent the morning, throwing clothes into bags and boarding our two dogs at a local kennel. My mother, who was close to her father, seemed strangely calm as she double-checked our suitcases. She wanted to be sure everyone had packed dress shoes, and that my brother and I had both packed a tie to wear to the funeral. Shortly after 12 pm, everyone piled into the mini-van to drive the two and a half hours up to my grandparents’ home in north Louisiana.

Soon the flat swamp lands of southern Louisiana turned into rolling hills covered with pine trees. As the car sped along the highway, I began to recall the many road trips I had taken with Poppa. I enjoyed nothing more than traveling with him in his white Ford F-150. It didn’t matter to me where we went for I just enjoyed being on the road. Poppa and I both shared a love for just taking a long drive, no particular destination or schedule in mind.

I watched the trees pass by in a blur, and thought about the previous Christmas holiday. As it turned out, I had the opportunity to spend the week prior to Christmas with my grandparents. None of my cousins were there, so I got completely spoiled by my grandmother’s amazing cooking. During the day, Poppa and I drove around the back roads of Catahoula Parish together, making Christmas deliveries of jars of cane syrup to friends. . Sometimes we would go in for a short visit. Other times I would just jump out to leave the jar of cane syrup next to the door. Now I felt sad, knowing it was Poppa’s last Christmas, and yet at the same time glad because I had gotten to spend so much of it with him.

Before I knew it, we were pulling up the hill to my grandparents’ home. Cars were parked everywhere. Inside, there was a small crowd, talking in hushed whispers. Yet, even with all those people, the house felt empty and lonely. Poppa wasn’t there, and suddenly the house I always loved to visit didn’t feel comforting or familiar.

The following day we went to the church for the time of visitation. Slowly, I walked up to the open casket and stared at my grandfather’s body. I realized, as I stood there gazing at the man laid out in the casket, that a part of me still held on to the hope that perhaps everyone was just wrong. My grandfather was still alive and we weren’t about to bury him in the ground after all. Now, that hope was gone. I had seen for myself and I knew it was true. Poppa was dead.

I sat down in one of the empty pews, watching as the pictures of my grandfather’s life scroll by slowly across the screen. Photos of his boyhood, college years, and of the years when my mother was just a child. I didn’t recognize this younger man, though I could see the resemblance he had to the Poppa I knew and loved. Same twinkling eyes. Same happy smile.

Then there were photos of Poppa I clearly remembered, like the one of us standing outside in the yard with the white house on the riverbank behind us in the background. Poppa and Kaytee, my grandmother, had lived there for 15 years. My mother and my siblings and I had lived there with them for two years, after my parents were divorced. I learned to ride a bike down that old gravel drive, Poppa and Mama cheering me on as I pedaled faster and faster. One spring, Kaytee and Poppa planted a garden. I can still remember the feeling of the warm sun on my back as we planted the seeds. And I don’t know who was more excited, Poppa or me, when we started finding ripe tomatoes and cucumbers ready to be picked.

Another photo showed my grandfather at his retirement party, just four years earlier. Poppa had been a high school principal. I used to love to go visit him at “his school.” I really did think he owned it, too. Many afternoons, my mother would bring my brother and sister and me to visit him at his office. We would walk in, and Poppa would beam with delight. The first thing he wanted to do was walk us around the school, proudly showing off his grandchildren to his staff of teachers and to the students. If the gym were not being used for a P.E. class, Poppa would take us there so that we could run up and down the court. Later, before we left, Poppa would walk us to the candy machines. He would pull a key from his pocket and open up the door to reveal all the candy hidden within. “Choose whatever you like,” he would say. I always got the green bag of Skittles. My brother Nathan used to believe that we could have all the candy we wanted for free, but I knew better. I knew because I saw that before Poppa shut the door to the machine, he slipped a five-dollar bill into the coin box, payment for our snack and then some.

That night, we returned to my grandfather’s house. We were quiet and somber, everyone lost in thoughts and memories. How odd it seemed that a person could be so full of life one day and then dead the next! I had been hearing people around me talk. “Why just last Sunday, Malcolm was elected to be the chairman of the deacons at church!” Another mentioned how he was president of the town civic club, and was present at the club’s Monday night meeting. One lady shared how she had carried on a long conversation with my grandfather at the post office on Tuesday morning. I thought about all of this, and pondered proudly that my grandfather had lived right up until he died.

Lying in my bed, I thought of all the things Poppa had taught me: how to shoot a gun; to bait a hook and catch a fish; to drive a truck. Mostly though, he taught me by example how to live for God. Early in the mornings I would get up to see him sitting with his Bible in front of him, reading God’s word. He was a man of prayer, too. No doubt I am a Christian because of my grandfather’s prayers for my salvation. I feel asleep comforted by these thoughts.

The funeral the next day was crowded, the sanctuary of the Baptist church where my grandfather served as a deacon filled to overflowing. I felt honored that he was loved by so many. As I sat there during the funeral, in my heart I came to an understanding that to this day has helped me process my grandfather’s death.

While Poppa may have not lived as long as I would have liked, he left behind memories that I will never forget, a legacy for me to cherish, and a love that I will carry with me until the day that I die. Death may be able separate me from my grandfather, but the one thing it cannot do is put an end to the truths of who he was in Christ or the love that I hold dear for him in my heart.

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On my grandfather’s tombstone are engraved the following words: “The righteous will be remembered forever. ~Psalm 112:6”

Truer words have never been written.

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BaptistGirlConfession

This post is part of the 2015 A-to-Z Blogging Challenge. If you are visiting due to that, thanks so much for popping in to read today’s post. I hope you will leave me a comment so that I can return the visit to your blog. I love to connect with other bloggers and readers. If you are a regular reader, I hope you’ll stick with me during April when I blog about the stories of my faith.

 

Head, Heart, Hands, Health: The Four H’s

I pledge my head to clearer thinking, my heart to greater loyalty, my hands to larger service, and my health to better living, for my club, my community, my country and my world.

4H

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When I was growing up, there were three things I knew I would be required to do. Each of them was non-negotiable.

1.  Go to church

2.  Take piano lessons for at least three school years (3rd-5th grades)

3.  Join 4-H

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I was born into a 4-H family. My paternal grandmother was a 4-H Extension Agent for many years, and my father used to entertain us with stories about his 4-H adventures back when he showed prize-winning lambs. Not only did I always know that one day I would also be a 4-H’er, but eventually identifying myself as such ranked right up there with being from the South and attending a Southern Baptist church. It was just part of who I was and how I was raised.

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Mr. Neal, my county agent, helping me learn how to show a lamb and what the judges would look for at the livestock shows.
Mr. Neal, my 4-H agent, helping me learn how to show a lamb and explaining to me exactly what the judges would look for when I showed my sheep at the livestock shows.

My first experience with 4-H was getting a small “flock” of my own 4-H sheep. By flock I mean three lambs. I named them, which was probably a huge mistake. I didn’t realize that later on I was going to have to eat them.

Lambs look cute and cuddly in pictures, as they serenely eat along grassy hillsides. In reality, they are rather annoying and incredibly stinky. I didn’t like early morning wake-up calls to go outside and feed a pen full of bleating lambs, nor did I enjoy the chaos of livestock shows. So I soon discovered that what sounded like great fun prior to my enrollment in the 4-H livestock program turned out to be not to be quite my cup of tea.

My next 4-H project was the Foods and Nutrition project. I was so excited to spend time in the kitchen with my mother and grandmother. I was nine years old when I entered my first 4-H cooking contest, the egg cookery. My mother was probably as surprised as I was when I took the first place ribbon with my dessert. Later I went on to compete at the district level where I took another first place ribbon, before moving onto the state egg cookery contest where I placed second behind a high school senior.

In high school, I competed on a state level in the 4-H child development project, winning many ribbons and awards for the scope and depth of my project work. When I graduated from high school, I received a small 4-H scholarship to help offset the cost of my college books.

More than anything else I ever did, 4-H prepared me for my college experiences and gave me opportunities to practice real-world skills rather than receive just textbook knowledge.

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Over the course of the past 30+ years, I’ve been a 4-H member, a 4-H club leader, a 4-H adult volunteer, and a 4-H Extension Agent.  But the hardest job I’ve ever had is that of being a 4-H mom.

I’ve got five kids who are all active 4-H’ers. From monthly meetings to service projects to competitions, not a week goes by when my family isn’t involved in some sort of 4-H related activity. Take this week for example, I’ve taken one child to help with a 4-H service project, sold and delivered 4-H strawberries, made a trip to the 4-H office to pick up meeting supplies, answered several phone calls and emails regarding our club’s upcoming 4-H field trip, and collected 4-H forms for upcoming awards night. Whew! I’m tired just typing all of that.

It’s hard work, but I know my children are learning valuable lessons that they will carry into adulthood.

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BaptistGirlConfession

This post is part of the 2015 A-to-Z Blogging Challenge. If you are visiting due to that, thanks so much for popping in to read today’s post. I hope you will leave me a comment so that I can return the visit to your blog. I love to connect with other bloggers and readers. If you are a regular reader, I hope you’ll stick with me during April when I blog about the stories of my faith.

GiGi: Just One of My Many Names

I don’t remember the first time I was called GiGi, but according to my mother it first started when my baby brother was learning to talk.

When I was two or three years old, I generally referred to myself as “Paigie.”  As my brother learned to talk, he began call out to me, “Gi! Gi!”

Mom said I would put my hands on my hips and say in a very agitated sort of way, “My name no Gi! My name Paige-GI!”

My mother thought it was a cute nickname, but I hated it. No matter how hard she tried to convince me, I refused to be okay with having GiGi as a nickname.

Eventually, no one called me GiGi anymore.

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The first time I met Jon’s girls, he introduced me as “Mrs. Paige.”  We ate lunch together in a crowded Chik-Fil-A restaurant. Maddie, the oldest, wearing a mismatched outfit complete with a baseball cap pulled to the side, talked a mile a minute. Megan, the younger one, wore a dress and a glittery headband, clung to her Daddy’s arm. I couldn’t tell if it was from insecurity or fear.

As we sat down to eat our lunches, Maddie asked her dad if she could go get some condiments for her sandwich and fries. He gave permission. She left the table. Then five steps later, she turned around and came back to the table, flashed the most brilliant smile I’ve ever seen, and then asked if she could get anyone else something while she was up.

Afterward, when I commented on Maddie’s sweet consideration of others, Jon confessed to me, “Well, I have to admit she completely stunned me! The girl has been listening to my lectures on manners after all!

Megan, who sat cuddled up to Jon, occasionally smiled shyly at me, but mostly she was quiet, allowing her father and older sister to do all the talking.

That was in October. I wouldn’t see his girls again until the last day of 2009.

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It was the New Year’s Eve I had no plans. Always before, I had somewhere to go, something to do, a person to be with … but not in 2009.  It looked like I would be spending the day completely alone.

Jon found out about my lack of plans as we talked late into the night on December 30th.  “Are you sure you have no where to go? Maybe your parents …

“No,” I replied. “They have gone to visit with my grandmother for a couple of days. They will come in late tomorrow evening, but I know they will be too tired from traveling to want to entertain me. It’s okay … I’ll just watch a movie or read a book.”

Well, I don’t like the idea of you being alone on New Year’s Eve,” Jon stated. “You could come hang out with me and my girls … but I would have to okay it with them since they we planned a few special things to celebrate. They are already in bed, so I’ll ask in the morning and give you a call to let you know if they approve.

The next morning, Jon called me bright and early, just as he had promised. “Maddie definitely wants you to come, but Megan isn’t so sure. She would like to talk to you about it first, if that’s okay.

The next thing I know, this small voice came on the phone. “Mrs. Paige, my daddy said you don’t have anywhere to go today. Is that true?

“Yes, it is.”

Oh. So dad is right.”  There was a small pause. Then Megan continued, “Well, Daddy says it would be a nice thing if we invited you. But I’m worried that if you come, then I will be left out.

“Oh, Megan … I don’t want to take you away from your Daddy. Maybe it is better if I don’t come visit today after all, especially if it is going to make you feel anxious. Maybe you and your dad talk about it some more? It’s okay if you decide to say no.”

I quietly hung up the phone, figuring perhaps Jon would call me back in a few minutes, after he had talked more with Megan. I felt like he would confirm what I assumed was going to be the result of that discussion, that his girls needed him more than I needed a place to go so it would be better for everyone if I didn’t join them for New Year’s Eve.

And I was right … well, right about the phone ringing. Everything else I had gotten wrong.

The person calling me back turn out to be Megan.

Mrs. Paige,” she said. “I have decided that I want you to come visit us today. If I were all alone on New Year’s Eve, I would want someone to invite me to visit. Besides, my daddy promised that I will definitely not be left out.

“Megan, I promise you that too.”

Later that day, I showed up to Jon’s with my craft box in tow. The girls and I made a few fun crafts together, bonding over paint and hot glue guns.  Later on, we went out for dinner, going to a Mexican restaurant that had a huge buffalo head hanging on the wall.  As we walked passed the buffalo, Megan held tightly to my hand.

I had no idea that exactly one year to the day I would become Mrs. Jon Hamilton.

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Shortly after Jon and I were married, I asked him if his girls could call me by another name,

“Mrs. Paige just sounds too formal,” I said.

“Okay … what do you suggest?” Jon asked.

“Maybe we could let the girls decide what to call me,” I said.

But a week passed by and neither girl could come up with an idea that suited everyone. Finally, Jon asked, “Did you have a nickname growing up?”

“Not really,” I replied. “Though my brother tried to give me a nickname. My mother said it made angry every time he called me it, so eventually no one called me that name anymore.”

Both Megan and Maddie perked up. “What was the nickname?” one of them asked, eager to hear what sort of name would make me mad.

And so I told them the story … and then said, “But you know, being called GiGi wouldn’t make me feel angry now. In fact, I’d like it very much.”

So that’s how I came to be known as GiGi … and not just to Jon’s beautiful girls, but also to our foster children.

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I’ve gone by many names in my life.  Paige and GiGi are just two. I’m called Mom, Aunt Paige, and Mrs. Hamilton. There are people who even call me by my first name, Angela. And I answer to them all.

However, if you call me something like Margaret or Allison or Bob, I am not going to respond. You see, I have many names, but those names do not belong to me.

Source: http://bibleresources.org/names-of-jesus/
Source: http://bibleresources.org/names-of-jesus/

Sometimes people say that it doesn’t matter what name you call God, for there are many ways to call upon Him.

That’s only partly true.

God does have many names.  He is called Jehovah, Yahweh, Adonai, and the Bread of Life. He is known as the Wonderful Counselor and the Prince of Peace. He is the Great I Am. King of Kings. Lord of Lords. Jesus Christ.

But you can’t just call God by any name …for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved. (Acts 4:12).

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Hallowed be Thy name. ~Matthew 6:9